Did we like it?
Hastily assembled like castaways making an improvised vessel upon which to sail to salvation with anything they can get their hands on – sand, coconuts, animal carcasses, seaweed – which will only be strong enough to take them as far as the horizon at which point it disintegrates into a bubbling broth of its own impetuous ambition.
What was good about it?
• Noreena Hertz’s naivety about the football world was in turn both irritating and endearing. When she tried to impress Ryan Giggs that she knew about the international matches he’d mentioned by saying “against Spain and Israel”, Giggs had to inform her that they were in fact England’s opponents.
• Jamie Redknapp being disparagingly referred to as an “ex-football pin-up”.
• Noreena’s campaign was a qualified success with about half of all Premiership players signing up to donate a day’s wages to help the nurses.
• The single image which demonstrated that footballers are indeed grossly overpaid was the whitewashed room in former West Ham captain Nigel Reo-Coker’s mansion that contained a single Nintendo games console. But in fairness to Reo-Coker he did more than any other player to get Noreena’s admirable cause off the ground.
• Erudite Noreena’s fortitude in lucidly explaining the motivation and purpose of her campaign to the various assembled squads of Blackburn, Fulham, Reading and West Ham, whose players struggled with the novel experience of someone speaking to them for a period of longer than 15 minutes while also avoiding the use of mind-numbing clichés. One Reading player was driven so insane by this event that he hitched up his shorts and rolled around on a couch like a dog about to be lethally injected to cure its dementia.
What was bad about it?
• Noreena’s constant whining that she knew nothing about football. At first it seemed excusable but soon it became almost a cheap gimmick with which to characterise her, and ended up making her venomously vexing. At a car park waiting for Andy Gray she fretted: “I don’t know what he looks like.” It’s not as if Andy Gray is JD bloody Salinger – why didn’t she search for a picture on the internet? The same could be said of her ignorance of Blackburn manager Mark Hughes.
• And the obsession with every five minutes of interrupting the narrative to just confirm one more time how ignorant Noreena was about football fractured the flow of the documentary. But, sadly, there was little narrative flow to disrupt as Noreena was swept along like a little leaf in the foaming rapids, one minute she’d be lunching with a camera-shy David James, the next chatting with Gianluca Vialli in the back of his car as he raced to the airport about his ultimately abortive efforts to convince John Terry to sign up.
• And some scenes appear to have been staged to show how lovably ditzy Noreena is. While her ignorance of football was understandable her idiocy around technology was less plausible. After she received a message from Freddie Ljungberg’s agent giving her an email address to send her correspondence to, Noreena very clearly said, “I’d better not delete that message” before she promptly deleted it.
• Noreena’s cause was ‘worthy’ but whether or not it was worthy of a TV documentary is another matter as there was little insight into a footballer’s mentality about their enormous wealth. The only thing we had confirmed rather than learnt was that footballers quite often are essentially lumps of raw gold whose every thought is manipulated by their agent to ensure that they continue as dumb cash cows illustrated when Jermain Defoe was advised by his agent Sky Andrew not to respond to a question with an answer that could not be expressed with either a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or typically inane clichés from the vernacular of a village idiot.
• The now-obligatory tearshots on 29 and 56 minutes.
• Alastair Campbell’s continued efforts to rehabilitate his public image from that of Satan’s more diabolical and despicable younger brother to some kind of reasonable, media-savvy sage. Still, he’s only number six on thecustard.tv’s most odious person on TV after Piers Morgan, Jeremy Clarkson, Max Clifford, Jade Goody and Simon Cowell. The odd thing is that both Campbell and Cowell have or will appear with Morgan in a situation similar to an ugly bloke taking his even uglier mate on the pull with him to bathe him in a comparatively pulchritudinous light.
• Mohammed Al-Fayed rivalled Alastair Campbell as the most odious man in the programme. It was almost as if his endorsement and sponsorship of Noreena’s campaign was with the proviso that he could be given airtime to launch into one of his squalid little rants about Tony Blair; it was only a wonder he didn’t vilify Prince Philip as a murderer.
• Glenn Roeder’s risible reliance on the power of ‘positive thinking’, he sent Noreena a message which included the sentimental sentence: “Every 60 seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you will never get back”. We wonder how many “minutes of happiness” Glenn lost when he resigned four days after Noreena’s visit.